Monday, 06 July 2015

Pigeonholes

By Marc Leavitt of Marc Leavitt's Blog

We call the old people, “senior citizens,”
Vanilla words, they segregate the old,
But well-meaning, it’s a harmless title;
We certainly would never condescend.

Then we describe the people next in line
As middle-aged, not sure of what that means,
Except, they obviously aren’t kids,
But they’re too young to lump in with the old.

Finally, we have youth, ah, golden youth,
A time to flourish, enjoy, and find love!
We call youth, beautiful, exciting, fun!
We smile at its mistakes (we made some too).

The labels make us feel smart and cozy,
Cocooned and snug, and knowing who we are;
But they can’t change the quality of truth;
We’re simply people, living out our lives.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Friday, 03 July 2015

Independence Day

By Henry Lowenstern

One day each year, we stop and pause
to commemorate a sacred cause,
for which the solution
was revolution
and a government of laws.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Thursday, 02 July 2015

My America

By Clifford Rothband

Why're we here
Was it a dire situation
Is it a yearning desire
What do we require
To look for a hire
Never to be a liar
And Yet to perspire
Try to never fall into a mire
Never to call a stranger Sire
It's like a tight wire
Oh how I sometimes tire,
Yet to live in America,
That's my desire.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Wednesday, 01 July 2015

One Ringy Dingy

By Dani Ferguson Phillips of The Cataract Club

Now I realize that in today’s technological world we have the ability to avoid phone solicitors that were unavoidable in my youth. When I was a kid you had no idea who awaited you on the other end of the line.

Now we just watch the TV screen and when the phone rings we automatically weed out all calls that say “caller unknown.”

I understand and it’s a great way to avoid talking to salesmen or anyone soliciting donations. But at the same time - I miss the excitement and element of surprise.

I remember once when I was a kid the phone rang and my father answered, “Simpson’s residence,” followed by a short pause.

“No thank you,” my father said to the caller.

Another brief pause followed again by, “No thanks, they’re just too ugly,” responded my father matter-of-factly.

By now, dad had our full attention. Who’s too ugly?

“No, we are all just too damn ugly,” came my father’s reply once more followed by a polite, “but we thank you for calling.”

By then we were all more than anxious to find out who he had been talking to.

Finally our mother looked at dad and asked what we all wanted to know, “Who in the heck were you talking to?”

My dad nonchalantly replied, “Olan Mills. They wanted to know if we wanted to have a family portrait taken.”


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The Snail

By Marc Leavitt of Marc Leavitt's Blog

Consider how the lowly snail
At night, will always leave a trail,
A shiny one, so he can mark
The path he travelled in the dark.

The tiny mollusk has to put
Soft slimy stuff beneath his foot
For traction as he glides about,
A habit he can’t do without.

He dresses in a sturdy shell,
Which doubles as a home as well;
It shields him from the wind and rain,
An evolutionary gain.

He wishes he had less appeal;
Some keenly eat him at a meal,
And think of him a gourmet food,
A thought that he finds very rude.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Monday, 29 June 2015

Ice Cream

By Vicki E. Jones

It was 1953, and while I was skinny and not very tall for six years of age, I sure could do a number on ice cream.

We lived in the Westchester area of Los Angeles and on Sepulveda Boulevard there was a Broadway Department Store with a Woolworth’s across the street and a Mile-High Currie’s Ice Cream parlor near the Woolworth’s.

I vividly recall that I would go with my father to Woolworth’s, after which we would go into Currie’s for an ice cream cone. The ladies dished out huge scoops of whatever flavor – or flavors - I wanted.

On this particular occasion, I ordered a banana split: three huge scoops of ice cream with my choice of flavors and my choice of topping on each scoop, half a banana on each side of the scoops, and a gigantic mound of whipped cream topped with chopped nuts and lots of maraschino cherries.

My father stared in disbelief as I devoured the entire banana split, one mouthful at a time, scraping the dish thoroughly to get every last taste.

Our days for going into Currie’s came to an end a few months after my 8th birthday. We moved to another neighborhood about half an hour away, close to the famous Farmer’s Market, and there was no Currie’s around.

But ice cream cones could be had at many places though what I wanted was to go to the local Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors. On rare occasion we would go there but their high prices meant ordering one or two scoops, not a banana split.

A few years later, I entered John Burroughs Junior High where there was a huge Carnation products building walking distance from the school. There was an ice cream parlor in the building which was on Wilshire Boulevard in the Miracle Mile district. There I would buy an ice cream cone after school sometimes, then catch a bus to within a few blocks of my home.

The years went by quickly and I was off to college at Cal Poly Pomona (California State Polytechnic College at Pomona). There I became friends with a group of people who loved to occasionally go to a restaurant in town that had an interesting offer on the menu: the restaurant offered a prize if a person could eat an entire gargantuan sundae composed of an absurd number of huge scoops of ice cream – something like 13 or 18 or 21 scoops. Something almost impossible for one person to eat.

One of my friends decided to order one of these on one occasion and finished the entire thing himself. He was promptly awarded the prize: a glutton button or Gormandizer Button.

Afterward, he had a stomach ache. But he had so much fun eating all the scoops of ice cream in whatever flavors and toppings he wanted that he said it was worth it.

Today, at age 68, I can no longer consume milk products even if they are lactose-free. I developed a lot of food allergies and intolerances over the years. There are ice cream substitutes with no milk products in them, of course, but they don’t measure up to the real ice cream of my ice cream years.

Of all the ice cream I had over those years, though, Mile High Currie’s ice cream and the Currie’s Ice Cream Parlor left the most lasting impression. There, cheerful ladies in matching uniforms would serve me my heart’s desire and to this day I hear the Mile High Currie’s Ice Cream slogan - and its catchy melody - ringing in my ears:

Mile High Currie’s stores
Mile High Ice Cream cones
Mile High Malts, double thick
Hurry to Currie’s double quick!


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Friday, 26 June 2015

Summer Heat on the Farm - Ice Houses, Long Johns & Drive-in Movies

By Dan Gogerty who blogs at Cast

Summer heat can still be dangerous for farmers and others working in the sun but technology has changed the “thermostat setting” in many ways during the past 50 years.

A farmer might turn up the air conditioning in the tractor cab, adjust the fans in the climate-controlled hog confinement building and then send a precision drone out to check for growth problems in the middle of a 100-acre cornfield.

Things were different in the 1960s when I was a kid growing up on a Midwest farm. We knew the heat was on when the old timers finally put away their long underwear. As Dad says, “Long-sleeved, loose-fitting denim shirts and bib overalls were the uniform of those days. One neighbor never did shed his long johns. He’d just switch from wool to cotton in the heat of the summer.”

We kids wore T-shirts, baseball caps and shorts when we’d weed soybean fields but long pants were a necessity when baling hay. Not much concern about sunburn then - peeling skin, poison ivy rashes and sweat-filled days just came with the territory.

When a real heat wave hit, Mom would set blocks of ice in front of a fan in the kitchen and if we finished enough work around the place, we’d hop in the car with our cousins and head to the Hubbard swimming pool.

Seven or eight of us then rode home in a hot, dusty station wagon with no air conditioning. The Popsicles we bought at the concession stand dripped onto our wrists and flies buzzed but we had jumped off the high board and played “gonzo keep away” in the pool, so we felt refreshed.

Old farmer, pinterest

Dad says we had it easy compared to the days when he was a kid. “Refrigeration was in its early stages and the work was more manual. But we learned to adapt and live with the heat.” Here are some of his recollections:

The Dettbarn family used to shock oats by moonlight. They wrapped a gallon crock jug full of water with a soaked burlap bag and stored it under an oats shock.

Location was important. You could take a break while haying by lying in shade under the hayrack; corn crib alleys usually provided a cool breeze; and horses might submerge their heads in the stock tank while farmers sloshed their arms and necks under the well pump spout.

Old Martin’s family had an ice house. The boys sawed 100-pound ice blocks from a local pond in winter and stored them in an insulated building packed with sawdust and canvass. Ice cream, cool drinks and food storage. I loved walking into the bigger ice house in Zearing. A cool blanket of air and Abbey Roberts would hand us a few ice chips to chomp on. Occasionally, Abbey and Dad would share a cold bottle of Grain Belt beer.

Farm work was tough - no cabs on tractors but farmers had some protection from straw hats or an umbrella clamped to the binder’s cast-iron seat.

Kitchens were also blast furnaces but some folks had “summer kitchens,” small attached rooms that provided more air flow while the wood or coal stoves were baking meat or cherry pies.

After a day of pitching hay, some guys headed for a swim at the local creek or gravel pit before stretching out to sleep under the stars in the backyard.

On weekends an evening breeze might cool the kids eating popcorn and sitting on folding chairs while watching a Tom Mix western at the outdoor movie located on Main Street. We usually had enough money left over from the dime movie and nickel popcorn to buy a cold Coke at Harry Martin’s café where a big, slow ceiling fan kept the air moving.

Dad’s right. By the time I was a kid, air conditioning was coming in and technology - like grain augers and milking machines - was making life a bit easier. But we still used some of the old techniques from Dad’s era - with modifications:

We joined other teens at the gravel pit to play rock music and do loops off the rope swing into deep, cold water. We went to outdoor movies equipped with cars, window speakers and teenage hormones. And we occasionally shared a cold bottle of something that came from the Land of Sky Blue Waters.

Drive in theater, realclear


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Thursday, 25 June 2015

On the S.S. I’m So Embrrassed

By Wendl Kornfeld

My husband and I recently returned from a Celebrity cruise to Bermuda and it was very comfortable thanks to having cruised previously. We blended in, knew the routines.

However, such was not the case on my first cruise back in the late ‘60s with my parents.

My folks were very poor growing up, had lived through the Great Depression, scraped and saved all their lives. They had arrived at a point when they could afford to travel for the first time. This trip to the West Indies was to present situations none of us had ever encountered before.

After getting settled in my own stateroom, I tiptoed across the corridor to my folks’ room and said, “Um, I have to tell you something.”

My father clutched his head, “You’re pregnant?”

“No,” I said, “I forgot to take one of the suitcases. The one with all my dressy clothes.”

For anyone who has taken a luxury cruise, you know that casual attire is frowned upon — if not forbidden - in the dining rooms and on formal nights, you have to really dress up. Until the ship arrived at a port where we could shop, I would be dining in pedal-pushers, shorts, sleeveless tops, sneakers and sandals.

The second night a-sea was a formal night. My mom looked lovely and Dad even wore a tux. I, on the other hand, seemed to have escaped from summer camp. At one point during the meal, however, an elegant woman approached our table and took my father aside for a little chat.

My father rejoined Mom and me and responded to our inquiring looks. “She told me such a young child shouldn’t be permitted to drink wine with dinner,” he reported. “So, I told her, ‘That child is 19 and can drink whatever she wants’.”

During the meal, I discovered years of watching old British movies did provide me with a small advantage. The first course was an intact artichoke which the three of us had never seen before. We didn’t even know what it was called. We had no idea whatsoever how to eat them.

Finally my father pulled off one of the leaves and said, “I think we’re supposed to dunk it in this clear sauce here.”

I replied, “That’s a finger-bowl, Daddy.”

He insisted it was sauce for this strange vegetable or the two items wouldn’t be placed next to one another. I insisted the “sauce” was just water and we were supposed to flutter our fingertips in it.

He dipped the morsel into the bowl, popped it into his mouth and pronounced it “water!” He looked around sheepishly, hoping no one noticed what he’d done.

(I suspect that other woman had us all in her sights for the rest of the trip, however, and was keeping a list of our bumpkin offenses.)

At a subsequent dinner aboard ship - this one without me - my poor father was again mortified.

First, I must first tell you that my maternal grandparents came to this country from Finland, a source of great nationalistic pride for my mother. Indeed, whenever Sibelius’ magnificent symphonic poem, Finlandia, was played on our stereo, we all but had to stand and salute.

So, back to the folks’ dinner where the passengers were treated to a trio of elegant Gypsy Violinists roaming from table to table taking requests. While the violinists didn’t seem to understand much English, they did recognize the names of romantic, familiar old tunes.

When they got to my parents’ table, my mother brightly asked them, “Can you play Finlandia?”

Now, it takes a philharmonic-size orchestra - complete with crashing symbols at the finale - to properly interpret that piece. My father reported that the musicians looked at each other in a panic, shrugged and shook their heads apologetically.

Not wanting to embarrass anyone further, my father chirped, How about Golden Earrings? which was met with much relieved nodding and smiling.

I’m very pleased that my husband and I didn’t call undue attention to ourselves on this recent cruise except for the fact that the cruise line somehow neglected to pre-assign us a fixed table in the dining room, as everyone else had been.

We kept getting uprooted from one place to another, startling the regulars at each table and ultimately earning us the nickname, The Stowaways.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Before The Ego’s Fried

By Arlene Corwin of Arlene Corwin Poetry

Before the ego’s fried in time,
In the death that I assume
Is silence in a silent world;
While ego mine
Still offers satisfaction
Of the sort that’s still attachment,
I would like to meet again
The world of once-relationships:
Lovers, friends,
Former all-the-ones who dropped away
Into the hole, where touching ends
And calling ends,
And Xmas cards and conversation
Are no more;
Before
The ego dies away
And I am spirited away
From an identity called me;
Before it’s fried and ties decay,
If one could bind up lost loose ends:
Fading lingerings of predilection.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Tuesday, 23 June 2015

A Dog Named Spot

By Norm Jenson of Mostly Anecdotal

Today I had to prove that I actually am who I say I am. And I had to do it twice. First, online. Then in person.

It started when I called my cell-phone provider about a phone upgrade offer; it ended when I visited one of their stores to complete the transaction.

Here’s what happened.

I told the “helpful” online sales rep that I was qualified for an upgrade and had some questions. I gave him my name and my phone number so he could verify my status, but it wasn’t enough. I was going to have to do this in person.

At the store, the sales rep needed to confirm that I was who I claimed I was. He asked for the pin number for my account. You know, one of those numbers you’re never supposed to write down. But one you’re expected to remember.

Of course, it would be easy if you could just use a number you already know, but they warn you against doing that. No 1234, no street address, no part of your phone number, or any of your other numbers. It should be a random number. A number that is difficult to remember. It worked — I couldn’t remember it.

We moved on to the security question.

“Your first dog’s name,” he asked.

“Spot,” I replied.

“Spot,” he said.

“Spot,” I repeated.

“Oh-kay,” he said.

I watched him as an afterthought formed, no doubt spawned by a recent customer service seminar he’d attended. At least, that’s what I surmised.

“What kind of dog is it?“ he asked.

I wasn’t sure how to reply. We’ve had many dogs over the years: Benji, Denny, Zoe, Mr. Bill, Buffy, Augie Chloe, and Dahle, and those just since we've been married!

But we've never had a dog named Spot.

My guess is he was asking what breed the dog was. But I wasn’t sure. Maybe he’d have been satisfied with the size. Or maybe he wanted to know about the dog's disposition. Was Spot friendly? Did he bite? Did he jump on strangers and give them big juicy slobbering kisses?

When he asked what kind of dog, did he mean well trained from which he hoped to glean something about me? I finally decided that telling him the breed was the best answer to his question.

I have a confession, something I need to get out of the way before I continue with the story. I’ve never really had a dog. There have been, and currently there are, dogs in the house I live in but to be accurate, they never belonged to me. It was always my brother's dog or my sister's dog or my wife’s dog. They were also family dogs, but that fact was secondary.

The only thing I was sure of was that choosing a dog’s name for a security question had seemed daunting at the time, and so I had chosen “Spot.”

I then realized I still hadn’t answered his question. I started picturing the dogs we'd owned, trying to decide which one looked most like a Spot. I didn’t want to disappoint him.

The problem was he seemed impatient and frustrated. And that added to my building tension. I had to say something.

“A Shih Tzu!” I blurted out rather unconvincingly. “My dog – Spot - is a Shih Tzu! Spot’s a Shih Tzu.”

He looked puzzled. And then disappointed. His face said, “Who names a Shih Tzu Spot?” He tried to smile, but it was as awkward as our whole dog conversation had been.

Fortunately we finally got back to business.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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